Monday, September 8, 2008

Review of The English Puritans by John Brown

Author: John Brown

Pages: 160 pages

Publisher: Christian Heritage

Price: 7.99

Genre: Puritan/Church History

Quick Summary:

In the preface the author makes clear that his aim is to provide a middle ground to Puritan history. He does not attempt to exhaust the subject nor does he attempt to merely give a cursory reading of the rise and fall of the Puritans. Brown takes us on a journey from the early origins of Puritanism in the 1500s through its rise and downfall in the mid and late 1600’s.

Brown’s main concern in this work is not so much with outlining the theological convictions of the Puritans but in showing how their theological convictions created the Puritan political history. J.I. Packer describes the book well when he says, “John Brown’s account of the political history of the Puritans up to 1660 has not lost its freshness. It is a heroic, inspiring story and Brown tells it well.”

What I Liked:

Brown writes the story as if he were at every meeting and as if he is giving you the inner workings of the Puritan movement, therefore, it is intriguing and a very easy read. After reading the second chapter on the vestments controversy you come away with a bigger appreciation for how small things can have an effect on great things. Would I sacrifice my family’s livelihood for the sake of freedom of attire? Is it really that important of an issue? Brown does an excellent job of showing us the importance as well as consequences of such issues.

What I Disliked:

While the book is very readable it also leaves the reader in the dark on many things. The author makes clear that his aim is to provide a middle ground and not exhaust the subject. Therefore, such a work would serve well as an introductory book. However, because of the lack of footnotes the reader is forced to make notes and look up these names and events elsewhere. A work that attempts to not be exhaustive should provide footnotes for further research and explanation otherwise the book might find itself abandoned on the bookshelf.

Another aspect that is difficult for the typical American is that Brown writes as one familiar to the English political system. Without a thorough knowledge of this it can become difficult to understand the significance of what Brown is saying. This is more a result of my ignorance and not Brown’s, however, let the casual American reader be advised to at least familiarize himself with the English government.

Should You Buy It?

This depends on what you are looking for. If you are already pretty familiar with the Puritans and their movement then this would be an interesting read. If this is your first exposure to the Puritans (both historically and theologically), then perhaps you would be better served elsewhere. However, if you decide to skip this book in favor of studying the Puritans elsewhere I would suggest picking it back up after you are familiarized with the movement. It adds great insight into historical struggles.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, Mike!

    I'm thinking about instead of writing my book reviews I'm going to start doing video blogs on me talking about the book.



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